If there was ever a year to make the idea of #vanlife sound appealing, it was 2020. COVID-19 sparked a mighty upswell in socially distanced activities like hiking and camping, while simultaneously making mass transit and staying in hotels seem about as appealing as chugging gasoline. Practically speaking, camper vans solve all of the above problems; add in an emotional appeal that stretches from Kerouac to Instagram, and it's not surprising that interest in the category spiked last year (and stays strong today).
Yet as much as we might often dream about wandering across the land in a tastefully designed van, the actual owning of one isn't quite as sexy. Luckily, there's a way to have your cake and eat it too, to an extent: rent a camper van.
Why rent a camper van?
Well, basically, because buying one is a big commitment. A camper van may not be as expensive as a full-fledged RV or a camping trailer and a full-size pickup truck or towing-capable SUV, but you're still looking at a significant outlay of cash to buy and build a brand-new camper van. (For example: Seattle-based Peace Vans, which Mercedes-Benz USA trusts to build their Getaway van, starts the pricing for its full camper vans at $105,000.)
And sure, while you certainly can use a camper van as your daily driver when you're not recreating out of it, it's less than ideal for most of us; while great in nature, camper vans tend to be fairly unwieldy in urban parking situations, not nearly as efficient as sedans or crossovers, and not very much fun to drive.
Renting a camper van also makes a lot of sense if you're planning a trip that's a long way from home. Sure, having your lodging double as a mode of transportation means it's possible to drive from, say, Massachusetts to the Grand Canyon in a pinch — but if you only have a limited amount of time off, it likely makes far more sense to fly if your destination is more than a day's drive away.
Different types of camper van rentals
If you're looking to rent a camper van for a vacation, there are two very broad approaches to looking for a company to hook you up.
First, you can check out national companies, which offer a wide swath of vehicles in markets all around the country. Often times, however, these are peer-to-peer sharing rentals – think AirBnB, not Hertz — which some people might be less comfortable with.
The other way to look for camper van rentals is based on the region you're headed. Perhaps not surprisingly, certain areas that are known as outdoor adventure destinations often have more local options, so it's worth exploring wherever you're heading for the choices there, as well.
National Camper Van Rental Companies:
This wide-ranging camper van rental company offers its colorful rides out of a baker's dozen locations across the United States and Canada, making it easy to plan a trip out of practically any major metro area.
Outdoorsy is a peer-to-peer marketplace that connects camper van owners with potential renters in a safe and easy process that includes features like insurance protection and 24/7 roadside assistance.
This peer-to-peer site enables you to use the RVs, camper vans, travel trailers and so forth around the country, with an easy-to-use AirBnB-like interface.
RVshare is a peer-to-peer marketplace with more than 100,000 recreational vehicles available, with everything from luxury motorhomes to basic travel trailers. Search filters are easy to use and include pet-friendly options.
Regional Camper Van Rental Companies:
Walden Campervans — Boston / New England
If you're looking to live that #vanlife in New England, Walden Campervans is an excellent bet. This Concord, MA-based company offers stylishly-decorated Ram Promaster-based campers for as low as $279 per night (with a three-night minimum).
Maine Campers — Maine / New England
If you're looking for an old-school ride to see the green (or or red-orange-yellow) scenery of New England, this company — which boasts a fleet of VW Westphalias — has your back. Pricing is $195 per night (seven-night minimum, only June-Sept).
Ondevan — Miami-Fort Lauderdale / Florida
If you're hoping to use your camper van vacation as a way to escape the chill of winter, Florida might be a nice destination, right? This company offers camper van rentals down in the Sunshine State starting at $89 per night.
Voyager Campervans — Nashville, Minneapolis, Austin, Phoenix
Unlike many camper van rental companies, Voyager offers locations in very disparate places — and offer both small and large vans to choose from. Pricing starts at $99 per day.
Roameo — Denver / Colorado
This high-end camping companies describes its vans as "mobile suites," and they certainly fit that bill — they look more like hotel rooms than any place Matt Foley would live. Prices run around $300 per night (three-night minimum).
Native Campervans — Denver, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas
This Western camper van outfit offers loans out of three cities, along with flexible mileage restrictions. Prices start around $169 per day (three-night minimum).
Moterra Campervans — Jackson WY, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Whitefish MT
You might expect a camper van rental company based out of Jackson Hole to be a bit bougie...and you'd be right. Still, their array of well-designed Mercedes-Benz vans offer high ceilings and enough space to be considered a studio apartment in New York. Pricing starts around $339 per night (five-night minimum, unless willing to pay extra per night).
Basecamper Vans — Salt Lake City / Utah
If Utah's your starting point, this camper van company — which offers a variety of vehicles in different sizes, from more compact vans to full-size ones — offers a bevy of options. Pricing starts at $99 per night.
Rocky Mountain Campervans — Denver, Las Vegas
This bi-city company has a wide variety of rides, from simple weekender vans based on VW Vanagons and Eurovans to fully built-out Ram Promaster campers. Prices start around $145 per day (multi-day minimum, varies on model).
Campervan North America — Denver, Las Vegas, Seattle, Bozeman
With four locations widely spaced across the West (including one in Bozeman that's close to Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park) and a wide variety of vehicles from Ford Transit Connects to Ram Promasters, this camper van rental company offers a bevy of options. Pricing starts at $48 per night (four- to seven-night minimum).
Wandervans — Boise, Salt Lake City, Portland, Spokane
Whether you need a small van, a big van or something inbetween, this Western company has something on offer. Pricing starts around $105 per day.
Boho Camper Vans — Phoenix / Southwest
Boho's vans all boast, well the sort of bohemian-chic interiors you'd expect of a company with that name. Indeed, they look nice enough that you might wind up falling in love and ordering a van from the company after your rental. Rates vary but start around $169 per night (three-night minimum).
Peace Vans — Seattle / Pacific Northwest
Planning a trip out of Seattle to explore the Northwest? Peace Vans has your back with an array of vintage and modern camper vans. Choose from new Mercedes-Benz models with the comforts of home, or classic VW Vanagons. Rates start at $200 per night (with a four-night minimum),
Texino — Los Angeles / Southern California
If you're looking to explore California's national parks (or even those of nearby states, like Zion and the Grand Canyon) and planning a trip from L.A., Texino may have a camper van from you. Their array of Mercedes-Benz vans start at $225 per night.
Lost Campers — San Francisco, Los Angeles
If you're looking for a more affordable camper van option out California way, this outfit could be just the ticket. They offer everything from Dodge minivans to rooftop tent-outfitted rides to full-size Ford Transits. Prices start around $57 per day.
Vintage Surfari Wagons — Los Angeles / Southern California
Haven't been able to get the Beach Boys out of your head since 1989? This SoCal-based camper van company's array of VW models — Microbuses, Vanagons and Eurovans alike — are made with that beachside state of mind in mind. Prices start at $129 per day (three-day minimum).
Juicy RV Rentals — Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas
If you don't mind the Barney-the-Dinosaur paint job, these "mini-RVs" — packing a bed, a fridge, a gas stove and a sink — could be a great way to explore California and the greater West. And if you really like their style, they also have locations in New Zealand and Australia.
Hawaii Surf Campers — Oahu / Hawaii
Wanna go full pre-fame Chris Pratt and live out of a van in Hawaii? These folks will set you up. Pricing starts at $149 per night.